- Citing a "retail failure," Kind Healthy Snacks said in a release it has pulled its Fruit Bites off the market after two years. However, the company will still sell three varieties of the fruit snacks made without synthetic dyes online.
- Bridgit Kasperski, a spokesperson with Kind, told Food Dive the snacks maker always felt the product may struggle. "We knew going into it that it probably wouldn't sell well because we knew that especially kids like very fluorescently colored snacks and food that tastes very sweet," she said. "We knew it was a risk, it was a gamble."
- On Sept. 24, Kind displayed large test tubes in New York City containing 2,000 gallons of synthetic dyes, which it said is roughly the amount all U.S. kids consume daily. Eight of the dyes are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in foods and beverages. Kind said they are found in all types of foods, including frozen breakfasts, candy, microwave popcorn, pickles, fruit cups, chips and fruit snacks.
Kind tried to revolutionize the kids' fruit snack space as it has done for bars, but that strategy didn't pan out. Since sales of its Fruit Bites were lagging, the company is taking the opportunity to continue an educational campaign about what it called "the unnecessary use of synthetic dyes in a wide variety of foods consumed by children."
This strategy could help the brand connect to parents concerned about artificial colors. Consumption of synthetic dyes has increased more than five-fold since the 1950s, according to a 2016 report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group said eight detailed analyses since 2011 concluded that removing food dyes — or following a diet without dyed foods and certain other foods and ingredients — reduces behavior problems in some children. In 2008, CSPI asked the FDA to ban Red 40, Yellow 5 and six other synthetic dyes for this reason, but the agency still includes them on its list of certified color additives.
Fruit snacks are especially likely to contain artificial colors. Depending on the flavor, General Mills' Fruit Roll-Ups owe their bright hues to Blue 1, Red 40 and Yellows 5 and 6, while the company's Fruit by the Foot is colored with Blue 1, Red 40 and Yellow 5. But some products in the category use natural colors. General Mills' Scooby-Doo fruit snacks get their colors from vegetable and fruit juice and extracts of spirulina, turmeric and annatto.
Some food and beverage manufacturers have been phasing out the use of artificial colors in their products because of increasing consumer concern. A Nielsen study in 2014 showed more than 60% of U.S. consumers cited the absence of artificial colors and flavors as an important factor when making food purchases. In 2017, Nestlé switched the color source of Butterfinger's yellow center from Yellow 5 and Red 40 to annatto, which new brand owner Ferrero has maintained while updating the recipe.
But not all product color change-ups have succeeded. After General Mills updated its Trix cereal in 2016 to remove the artificial colors, consumers said the naturally sourced ones were depressing and the flavor was different. As a result, the company brought back the brightly colored Trix last fall and now sells both versions.
Given the candid way Kind announced its decision to withdraw Fruit Bites from the retail market — and the big way it launched the product in 2017 — the company seems dedicated to calling attention to the high levels of potentially unhealthy ingredients in products marketed to kids.
Kasperski told Food Dive that Kind wouldn't be discouraged by the retail failure of Fruit Bites and that it would continue introducing nutrient-dense foods it is "proud of." She said in the future Kind will work to be "more informed about what Americans are really ready for when it comes to (our) products."
Kind is adept at using its snacks as a platform to show how other manufacturers use controversial ingredients. In April, the company unveiled an augmented reality installation pop-up called Sweeteners Uncovered in New York City. It also launched an online database to showcase the different sweeteners and sugar sources in top-selling snacks — including many from the company's competitors.
While this approach may help educate parents and other consumers, it may have limited effects on children who are too young to be discerning in their food choices. And while parents control what they buy for their kids, they can't control snacking options children are exposed to when they're not at home. It may make sense for Kind to target some of its messaging to the youngest consumers using examples they can understand.
— Christopher Doering contributed to this report